Whenever I end up in a discussion about ex racehorses, the same set of misconceptions always come up. Obviously, I'm a big fan of them and am always keen to jump to their defence but most of people's negative beliefs are either factually incorrect or, at best, complete generalisations. I'll try to dispel a few of these myths here.....
EX-RACEHORSES ARE 'CRAZY' - This is always the first thing people say when they find out I retrain ex-racehorses and it's just simply not true. For a start, most of the ex racers we've had over the years, retired because they were too slow, laid back and not interested in galloping and this doesn't change when they leave the racing yard. The key is to treat each horse as an individual, of course there will be highly strung ex racehorses, just as there are highly strung warmbloods, arabs and cobs. When racehorses are in training they are fed a high-energy feed to maximise their speed and to keep them 'hot' - with regular turnout, a good balanced diet and regular exercise, many ex-racehorses are perfectly manageable and in my opinion, super sweet, intelligent and extremely versatile as riding horses. Some are even lazy!
EX-RACEHORSES ARE POOR DOERS - When racehorses are in training they are fed and trained to have a high percentage of muscle and a low percentage of boy fat so when they first arrive 'off the track' they can look a little lean for a riding horse. With careful adjustment of their feed to a low sugar and starch, high oil feed, the ratio of muscle to fat changes and the majority of ex-racehorses will end up being managed on a maintenance ration. Again, all horses are different and any difficulty keeping weight on an ex-racehorse should be investigated by a vet and/or nutritionist.
EX-RACEHORSES ARE UN-SOUND - There's a common misconception that all ex-racehorses have damaged limbs and are un-sound. It's true that racing can take it's toll on horses legs but many retire from racing for many other reasons other than lameness, the most common that they're simply too slow to justify pursuing. Sometimes owners just lose interest or typically, a syndicate breaks down and the horse is sold or re-homed. It's definitely a good idea to have your ex-racehorse, or any horse for that matter, vetted before purchase but don't discount an ex-racehorse on the basis that it's probably un-sound.
EX-RACEHORSES ARE DIFFICULT TO HANDLE - Quite often, the opposite is true here. Racehorses tend to stand quietly to be groomed, tacked up, washed down, clipped, shod and almost all are excellent loaders. Racing yards are busy places and the horses simply have to be well behaved. This is one of the great things about ex-racehorses!
EX-RACEHORSES HAVE NO BRAKES - This is just a question of re-training. Racehorses are taught to run into the bridle, so when the jockey takes a hold of the reins, the horse will accelerate. This is one of the first things we re-teach to any ex-racehorse coming in for training and we've never had an issue with it. Thoroughbreds are generally very smart and take to re-training really well, it's why it's so rewarding a process.
I hope this successfully addresses these common misconceptions and that more people will consider an ex-racehorse as a prospective riding horse. I've always found them to be clever, kind, really 'game' and extremely versatile but every one of them different and that's what keeps this job exciting - there's always something new to learn.
KAEquestrian on YouTube